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faf : David McDonald

faf : David McDonald

This week’s Five Apps Friday is designer David McDonald who has worked professionally in the creative industry since 1981. He was trained ‘old-school’ style in typography, illustration, photography and design and now applies what he has learned from experience to his workflow on the Mac.

“My selection of tools remains broad, everything from pencils (still the fastest way of roughing out a concept) to high-end production apps, such as the Adobe Creative and Final Cut Studio suites – and a multitude of other apps that fill the necessary niches not addressed by the respective 800lb gorillas of my creative Mac world. Time is expensive, apps are cheap!”


1. Automator:

Rinse and Repeat.
(Hah – a cheat already, one app that lets me mention twelve!) Thanks to Automator just clicking two dock icons launches the two main groups of apps that I need every day, this is a terrific timesaver.

I do have some essential apps that load on startup, but have found that on the rare occasions I have problems with my Mac I don’t want to wait for all twelve of my staple apps to load only to start repairs.

I have two Automator sets:

Work Apps (general productivity apps): Mail, Busycal, Timepost, Time Out, Safari, Littlesnapper, Things and RescueTime.
Adobe Apps (Industry standard for the heavy lifting): Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat.

Like many other of the Mac OSX onboard productivity features I’m sure I could make a lot more use of this, but even this simple timesaver is worth setting up. Of course as this is included in the Mac OS you already have it, so go check out what it can do.

2. Default Folder:

Location, location, location…
Another in the category of ‘And I’m only discovering this NOW!’ apps. Well actually I discovered Default Folder X late last year, but wish I’d known earlier. What a terrific app this is – kind of like having an elastic bungie-rope attached to your files, when saving them this app remembers where they originated and makes it easier to put them back safely where they belong.

Like the best apps in this category it works pretty seamlessly, the UI is simple but cleverly designed to allow faster and more efficient workflow for managing your files, after configuring it to your needs of course. This app currently sells for ?24.45, worth every penny too. [Link]

3. Quicksilver:

When is an App not an App?…
Quicksilver is more like a utility than an App but so ingrained in my daily Mac work that it’s more like muscle-memory than having to actually think about using it.

Quicksilver’s fast and easy keyboard-shortcuts give me almost frictionless access to nearly anything on my Mac, it is the most zen-like of my Mac apps in that I can really ‘do without thinking’.

Legendary developer Alcor abandoned this app when he left to work for Google, it was then open-sourced and fears of development ceasing on the project led many to look for alternatives. I’m glad to say that rumours of Quicksilver’s death have been greatly exaggerated with a recent surprise update making it compatible with Snow leopard. Quicksilver rides again.

I’ll also say that this is a pretty deep app and I’m only using it in it’s most basic mode, it is way more capable than what I’m using it for. If you are into keyboard shortcuts and are prepared to invest some time in studying this app you will be very impressed with it’s range of features.
Did I mention it was FREE?! [Link]

4. Socialite:

One App to Rule them All…
I thought I had reached Twitter nirvana with Tweetie for Mac (love their iPhone app too) but although that took care of Twitter I still have Flickr, Google Reader and Failbook, er, Facebook to keep an eye on.

I’d heard about Socialite’s evolution from the Eventbox app by the talented bunch at RealMac Software (you had me at Littlesnapper folks!) and their new app attempts to have one app for managing several web social networking services.

At present this includes Digg, Flickr, Twittr, Google Readr (Oh dr, must stop that!), RSS feeds and Farcebook Facebook, though I do not use all those services in Socialite yet.

The smart and neat Socialite interface helps me keep up to date with my most important social networks in one beautifully integrated app. I expect we may see more apps like this in future, having all these services centralised like this really is very convenient.

A bit slow to load, once I had my Google feeds in it, but it does handle a lot of traffic very well and this is an early version of the app – I’m confident that Realmac peeps will improve performance in the near future. Besides, I don’t think there is another native Mac app that does this yet, or at least I haven’t found it.

Terrific for Facebook & Flickr, two services that usually demand I manage them on their own websites, but not anymore thanks to Socialite. Yes you may have to log in occasionally to do specific ‘heavy-lifting’ on these services but for general management and monitoring Socialite does a great job. I am genuinely interacting much more with these two services in particular now.

I’m especially impressed with how easy this makes keeping in touch with my Flickr network, where loading and viewing photos, by it’s very nature, makes for a more labour-intensive occupation than following short text streams. You can join the Socialite party for ?13.03. [Link]

5. Timeout:

Don’t just sit there…
OK, this one is really basic, but increasingly important, as I am finding. Here’s the problem: you love your work, you love your Mac, you also love using your mac after work for entertainment and socialising… so you end up spending an extraordinary amount of your entire day with your backside in a chair – not very healthy (or is this just me?).

This is the curse of the knowledge generation, and it’s not a problem for the older workstation users either, these problems and habits start early and they get worse later.
So the simple aim of the Timeout app is to gently, but firmly, remind you at pre-set intervals to get up off your chair and stretch/chat/make a cuppa/stare out the window… in fact anything you like except continue sitting in the chair in front of your screen.

Timeout is easy to set up and flexible in how you may configure the alarm settings. It is also quite elegant in how it presents the scheduled breaktimes, elegant, but firm.

I spent a lot of money on a really great chair a while back (money well spent too!) but the cost of improving your health with Timeout is… nothing! Another great free Mac app. [Link]

Even after all my time in this industry I enjoy my work and I remain fascinated, to the point of obsession, with the creative process and with visual images.

The old Chinese saying has come true – we do live in ‘interesting’ times. My Mac, and the apps, helps me stay on the enjoyable side of interesting.

Life is short – get excited and make something!

Take Part

If you  like to take part in the Five Apps Friday series then why not get in contact. The applications can be either OSX based or iPhone and all we need is a 620 pixel wide (landscape) photo and a png screen shot of the apps in a row. All we need is your five favourite applications and why…

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